Print and Picture Collection

1901 Vine Street, Second Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215-686-5405

The Print and Picture Collection is open for research by appointment only. To make an appointment, please email erefpix@freelibrary.org

Open today 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday Closed

Upcoming Closures

  • Sat., Dec. 23 : Closed Christmas Day (Observed)
  • Sun., Dec. 24 : Closed Christmas Day (Observed)
  • Mon., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
  • Sat., Dec. 30 : Closed New Year's Day (Observed)
  • Sun., Dec. 31 : Closed New Year's Day (Observed)
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Do That: Artists’ Books Donated by Karen Lightner

Now through Sun, January 28, 2018 5:00 P.M.

This exhibition is comprised of artists' books donated to the Print and Picture Collection (PIX) by Karen Lightner, the head of the Art and Literature Department. Karen is retiring after nearly 35 years of service to the Free Library, including five years as curator of PIX.  Do That:…

Adult Young Adult Exhibitions Special Collections Print and Picture Collection Book Arts

The Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia (PIX) is home to diverse collections of fine art prints, photographs, drawings, and artists’ books, as well as extensive research collections of Philadelphia images, both historical and modern. The Special Collections of PIX include:

Philadelphiana Collection

The Philadelphiana Collection contains over 20,000 prints, drawings, scrapbooks, watercolors, and photographs which constitute a picture history of Philadelphia from its founding by William Penn to the present day. Some images have been scanned and can be found in the Historical Images of Philadelphia digital collection. Of particular interest are images of Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs, the Samuel Castner Scrapbooks, and the United States Centennial Exhibition Collection.

Fine Art Prints and Photographs

Spanning the graphic arts from 1493 to the present time, the collection includes thousands of works of art. Initially representing only Philadelphia artists, the collection has been extended to include early masters as well as renowned modern printmakers and photographers. You can view prints by such artists as Dürer, Rembrandt, Benton Spruance, and Andy Warhol. Photographers represented include Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, David Graham, Ray Metzker, Eadweard Muybridge, and Aaron Siskind. A small number of our Fine Art Prints have been digitized, and can be viewed here and here.

WPA Collection

The WPA (Works Progress Administration, 1935-1943, renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration) Collection contains about 1,400 prints, drawings and posters created by artists hired by the Federal Government to work in the Philadelphia Graphic Arts Workshop during the Great Depression. When the program ended in 1943, the General Services Administration divided the work of the WPA workshop in Philadelphia and gave them on long-term loan to the Free Library, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Among the artists represented are Julius Block, Sam Brown, Claude Clark, Mildred Elfman, Michael Gallagher, Hubert Mesibov, Raymond Steth, Dox Thrash, and Roswell Weidner. A portion of the WPA Collection has been digitized, and can be viewed here.

Artists’ Books Collection

The Print and Picture Collection has a growing collection of over 400 artists’ books. The donation of 50 artists’ books by a collector, who then challenged the local book arts community to match her donation, has greatly enhanced the size and depth of the collection. Artists represented include Johanna Drucker, Susan King, Hedi Kyle, Joan Lyons, Caitlin Perkins, Maddy Rosenberg, Ed Ruscha, Patty Smith, and Susan Viguers. Find Artists’ Books in the online catalog.

John Frederick Lewis Portrait Collection

John Frederick Lewis donated his collection of portraits to the Free Library in 1928, making the collection one of the earliest special collections to be received by the library. It contains more than 200,000 portrait prints in all media. Among these prints are numerous works of art by such artists as Van Dyck, Nanteuil, and Holbein. Highlights include a photograph of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt attending their son Elliott's wedding in Bryn Mawr in 1932, an engraving of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, and dozens of engraved portraits of Benjamin Franklin.

Americana Collection

The Americana Collection is composed of over 8,000 prints, photographs and ephemera relating to American history. The collection includes a number of plates from Julius Bien’s chromolithographed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, 1858-1860. Other notable printmakers presented in this collection are J.T. Bowen, Thomas Doughty, John Hill, George Endicott, John Sartain and Currier & Ives. Additionally, this collection contains several hundred trade cards, political cartoons, items from political campaigns and Civil War prints.

The Jackson Collection of American Lithographs

The history of lithography may be studied in the Jackson Collection of American Lithographs that includes some 275 lithographs from the collection of Joseph Jackson, author of “The Encyclopedia of Philadelphia and other works of scholarly interest.” This collection includes the first lithograph printed in America by Bass Otis and published in the Analectic Magazine in July of 1819. The collection has been digitized and can be viewed here.

The Rosenthal Collection of Drawings by American Artists

The Rosenthal Collection was donated by artist Albert Rosenthal (1863-1939) in the 1920s. Containing over 800 drawings by artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the collection is made up of illustrations for magazines, and studies for paintings and larger works. Artists in the collection include Eastman Johnson, C. E. H. Bonwill, Louis M. Glackens, Edward H. Potthast, John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, Thomas Sully, John Trumbull and Benjamin West.

Drawings and Watercolors

In addition to the Rosenthal gift, the Print and Picture Collection has watercolors and drawings from a wide variety of artists, including Augustus Kollner, Violet Oakley, Aubrey Beardsley, Wyncie King, Joseph Pennell and Edith Emerson. PIX also has original drawings by stained glass aritsts Nicola D'Ascenzo, Lawrence Saint, and the Oesterle Glass Works.

Other Special Collections

Other special collections include a Poster Collection, the Franklin Davenport Edmunds Collection, and the Political Cartoon Collection. Many collections have not been digitized, and some collections have only been digitized in part. Please email the Print and Picture Collection at erefpix@freelibrary.org with questions about our collections. 


In addition to the above special collections, PIX houses a large Circulating Picture Collection. Used by artists, students, researchers and the general public, the Circulating Picture Collection includes pictures clipped from books and magazines as well as photographs donated by local newspapers and individuals over the years. Free Library cardholders may check out up to 100 images for a three-week period.


The Print and Picture Collection is open for research by appointment only. To make an appointment, please email erefpix@freelibrary.org. We welcome visits from school groups and university classes. We offer specialized class visits based upon the strengths of our collections. Instructors are invited to schedule a research visit prior to the class visit, in order to select items they would like the class to see.  For more information on educational programs, please email erefpix@freelibrary.org. Read more about PIX on the Free Library's Blog.


Research Support

Free Library of Philadelphia Research Databases

How to Research the History of a House

The Art Department holds an extensive selection of files on artists, architects, designers and collectors, and the art & architecture of Philadelphia. These include article clippings, gallery announcements, artist statements, exhibition catalogs, and other ephemera related to artists and art subjects.

The Education Philosophy and Religion Department maintains a historic collection of pamphlets about education, historic churches, libraries, and more.

The Social Science and History Department hold local history books and maintains file collections pertaining to Philadelphia history, local biographies, Philadelphia neighborhoods, and Pennsylvania counties and government.

The website Places in Time: Historical Documentation of Place in Greater Philadelphia has links to a rich variety of images, documents, maps, and views of Philadelphia and surrounding counties from throughout its history. Included are resources from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers, compiled by Adam Levine, historical consultant of the Philadelphia Water Department, includes resources from the Free Library of Phialdelphia's collections.

 


Special Collections

The Print and Picture Collection is part of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Special Collections division. Click here to learn more about the library's special collections 


Support the Print and Picture Collection

Please support the Print and Picture Collection today. We depend on financial support to add new acquisitions to the collection, mount exhibitions, and care for the collection.